Tales from the Trail

Bob Barr: the man, the mustache

Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr has crashed the Republican convention.

Barr, a former Republican congressman now running for president on the Libertarian ticket, was spotted inside the Xcel Center on Wednesday morning, near the talk-radio jocks on “Radio Row.”barr.jpg

What was he doing here? How did he get in? What did he think of Sarah Palin?

Barr said it wasn’t a good time for questions.

“I have to visit the men’s room,” he told Reuters.

Some analysts believe Barr could serve as a spoiler candidate by pulling votes from Republican John McCain in states like Georgia.

But Barr is significant in other ways.

“He is the first mustached American running for president since Thomas E. Dewey in 1948,” the American Mustache Institute wrote in a press release. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo: REUTERS/Molly Riley (A mustachioed Barr speaks in a Reuters interview, April 4 2008)

Obama would have fit right into the old neighborhood, Biden says

biden2.jpgSCRANTON, Pennsylvania – Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden told his boyhood companions that Barack Obama would have been one of their friends, if he had been around when they were growing up.

“This guy gets it,” Biden, 65, said of his 47-year-old running mate, who could become the first black U.S. president.

Biden made the comments on a campaign visit to his childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a blue collar city in a state central to his and Obama’s run for the White House. He described his old and predominately white neighborhood, known as Green Ridge, as a patriotic place where a person’s word was his bond and people stood up for what they believed in.

Obama distances himself from campaign’s criticism of Palin

MONACA, Pennsylvania – Barack Obama distanced himself on Friday from his campaign’s initially critical statement about his rival John McCain’s choice of first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.
McCain, a 72-year-old veteran Republican senator from Arizona, picked a political unknown and self-described “hockey mom” who will become the first woman Republican vice presidential candidate.
When the surprise decision was announced, Obama was on the tarmac at a Denver airport preparing to depart for a bus tour in the industrial Midwest with his running mate, Joe Biden. The Democratic candidate had just made history by becoming the first black to accept a major-party presidential nomination.
His spokesman, Bill Burton, issued a statement suggesting Palin was too inexperienced to be vice president. “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” it  said.
The McCain campaign quickly shot back that it was “audacious” for aides to the 47-year-old first-term Illinois senator to accuse Palin of inexperience.
Later in the day, Obama told reporters that the campaign’s early statement was “hair-trigger” and did not reflect his sentiments.
“I haven’t met her before. She seems like a compelling person. Obviously, a terrific story, personal story,” he said while touring a biodiesel plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
Obama said the choice of Palin was “one more indicator of this country moving forward” and a hit against the glass ceiling that has limited women’s advancement.
In a phone call to Palin, Obama told her he thought she would be a terrific candidate and wished her luck “but not too much luck,” according to Robert Gibbs, his senior adviser.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (McCain stands with his vice presidential running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 29, 2008)

Kerry takes convention stage again, rips McCain

johnkerry1.jpgDENVER – John Kerry, the failed 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, took the stage at this year’s party convention on Wednesday to praise Illinois Sen. Barack Obama – whose career he helped launch — and lambaste John McCain.

Kerry, who said he had been friends with McCain for nearly 22 years, used tough words to criticize the Arizona senator’s evolution from a maverick legislator to a presidential candidate.

“Before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself,” Kerry said, listing what he described as McCain’s shifts on tax cuts, immigration, and climate change.

Does Obama get too much media coverage?

obama-media.jpgNEW YORK - Few would doubt that Barack Obama has attracted more media coverage than his Republican rival John McCain, fueling suspicion that journalists are biased towards Obama. 

A Rasmussen Reports survey in July found that 49 percent of voters believe most reporters are trying to help Obama. Just 14 percent believed most reporters were trying to help McCain and 24 percent said most reporters tried to be objective.

Obama’s seventh appearance this year on the cover of Time magazine, compared to two for McCain, renewed those charges this week. Read our story on that here.

Obama: Russia, U.S. should not ‘charge into’ other countries

LYNCHBURG, Virginia – Democrat Barack Obama scolded Russia again on Wednesday for invading another country’s sovereign territory while adding a new twist: the United States, he said, should set a better example on that front, too.

The Illinois senator’s opposition to the Iraq war, which his comment clearly referenced, is well known. But this was the first time the Democratic presidential candidate has made a comparison between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Russia’s recent military activity in Georgia.

“We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies,” Obama told a crowd of supporters in Virginia. “They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”

Hawaii-bound Obama waylei-ed by international crisis

SACRAMENTO – Nothing like starting your vacation with an international crisis.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was Hawaii bound when it became clear he needed to make a public statement about the outbreak of violence between Georgia and Russia — as rival John McCain had already done — or risk looking out of touch.
Arrangements were hastily made for a quick press conference during a refueling stop in Sacramento.
American flags were found for a backdrop and Obama came into the small room to make his statement, still dressed in khakis, a black polo shirt and a light jacket.
“This is a volatile situation,” he said. “Obviously we’ll be getting updated on a regular basis. But what is clear is that Russia has invaded Georgia’s sovereignty … has encroached on Georgia’s sovereignty, and it is very important for us to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”
The Illinois senator still intends to duck out of the spotlight in the next week, but Friday was not the day to keep quiet.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama arriving in Paris July 25)

Attacks give McCain a taste of celebrity: Now he’s back for more

John McCain got his own taste of celebrity last week and evidently liked it — he’s back with a new ad ridiculing Barack Obama‘s fame. rtr20efd.jpg

The Republican candidate got a huge boost from accusing Obama of being a big celebrity like Paris Hilton and acting like some sort of political messiah.
Until his spate of negative attacks, McCain had been languishing ignored by the media while Obama triumphantly toured the world.
But last week McCain nearly tied Obama in the battle for media coverage — the first time that has happened since the start of the general election, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
So the Arizona senator is returning ahead of Obama’s weeklong vacation in Hawaii with another advertisement ridiculing his fame. It also paints him as a big-tax Democrat.
“Life in the spotlight must be grand,” an announcer says as a camera pans over images of a smiling Obama on the covers of GQ, Vanity Fair and other magazines.
“But for the rest of us, times are tough,” the announcer says. “Obama voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000. He promises more taxes. On small business. On seniors. Your life savings. Your family.”
“Painful taxes. Hard choices for your budget. Not ready to lead. That’s the real Obama.”
Scary stuff, but…
A study in mid-July by the Tax Policy Center — a venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution — found that Obama’s tax proposals would lift the after-tax income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans by 5.5 percent.
McCain’s plans would provide the poor with “virtually no benefit,” it said.
Nearly everyone else does better under Obama’s tax proposals as well.

Only the top 20 percent of U.S. wage earners would do better under McCain than Obama. The richest Americans would see after-tax income rise by 5.9 percent under McCain’s plans, while under Obama their after-tax income would drop by 2.8 percent, the study found.Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

McCain: He’s no maverick in Obama’s book

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama thinks John McCain is losing his credibility as a maverick.
Sure, the Arizona Republican has sometimes refused to go along with his party. Sure, he has occasionally cussed out Senate colleagues. And, yes, rtr20ejs.jpgthe word “maverick” is regularly attached to his name in the media.
But that was before McCain became the Republican presidential candidate. Now, Obama says, he has started changing his positions to please the party.
“That doesn’t exactly meet my definition of a maverick,” the Democratic presidential candidate told supporters in Indiana this week.
“You can’t be a maverick when politically it’s working for you and not a maverick when it doesn’t work for you,” Obama said.
The Illinois senator began taking jabs at McCain’s maverick image after suffering a week of taunts and insults from the Arizona senator’s campaign. McCain’s aides ridiculed Obama as a celebrity and accused of him injecting race into the campaign.
With some polls showing McCain gaining ground and the two candidates in a virtual tie, Obama is fighting back with his own negative attacks.
He has rolled out speeches and an ad challenging McCain’s maverick image, ridiculing a recent TV spot that touted the Arizona senator as “the original maverick.”

“Really?” Obama’s ad questions before cutting to a 5-year-old clip of McCain saying he had voted to back President George W. Bush 90 percent of the time.
“Maverick, or just more of the same?” the ad asks as the image on screen expands to show McCain posed in a photo with Bush.
The Democratic National Committee rolled out its own ad saying much the same thing: “Maverick No More.”
Ridicule or not, McCain is embracing the maverick moniker.
“You may have noticed that I have been called a maverick,” he told an Ohio crowd Thursday. “Sometimes it’s meant as a compliment. Sometimes it’s meant as a criticism, sometimes worse.
“But what it really means is that I understand who I work for. I don’t work for a party. I don’t work for a president. I don’t work for a special interest and I don’t work for myself. I work for you and the country we love.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

 Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain greets a veteran in Maine July 21)

McCain’s epiphany: Obama thinks he’s a political messiah

Barack Obama’s soaring rhetoric on the campaign trail has given rival John McCain yet another epiphany.
Not only is Democratic presidential candidate the most popular celebrity in the world, not only has he injected race into the election, but he also must think he’s some sort of political messiah.
That’s the message the Arizona Republican put in a new video sent to his supporters.
“It shall be known that in 2008 the world will be blessed. They will call him The One,” the announcer intones in a voice of reverential authority.
The text of the one minute, 14 second video strings together phrases and pictures loaded with religious imagery and uses them to ridicule lines from Obama’s high-flying speeches.
“A light will shine down from somewhere. It will light upon you. You will experience an epiphany and you will say to yourself, ‘I have to vote for Barack’,” Obama says.
In case you missed the point, McCain trots out Republican icon Charlton Heston in his role as Moses in the epic movie “The Ten Commandments.”
“Behold His mighty hand,” Heston shouts. And as the actor raises his staff to part the waters of the Red Sea, Obama’s presidential-style seal comes swirling through the waves while a chant of “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!” swells in the background.
The video comes at the end of a week in which McCain has turned to negative attacks and ridicule in an effort to blunt Obama’s advantage in the polls for the Nov. 4 election. McCain’s campaign accused Obama of injecting race into the campaign and said he was attention-grabbing celebrity, more popular even than Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

Obama has fought ridicule with seriousness.
“It’s downright sad that on a day when we learned that 51,000 Americans lost their jobs, a candidate for the presidency is spending all of his time and the powerful platform he has on these sorts of juvenile antics,” said spokesman Hari Sevugan.
“Barack Obama will continue talking about his plan to jump-start our economy by giving working families $1,000 of immediate relief.”
“We were having some fun with our supporters,” McCain told a news conference.
“I don’t think our campaign is negative in the slightest.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Obama on Capitol Hill July 29)